The Hand in Hand online auction is here!

That’s right, folks.

Starting today, you, your friends, your family, your friends’ families and your families’ friends – and your enemies – can bid on a huge range of super-cool items, from wine and original art to designer bags and wine to holidays, e-bikes and wine.

“Interesting,” you say. “But can I enter a raffle to win a stunning Orbit No. 1 diamond necklace from Swiss jewellers Montluc?”

Boom.

And that’s not all. Every time you bid or buy a raffle ticket, you’ll be helping women in some of the most challenging places on Earth beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, which is literally impossible to argue with.

So go ahead. Finish Start your Christmas shopping or treat yourself to a presumably well-earned gift. Then forward our auction site to every single person in your address book, twice.

Happy bidding!

Let’s do this

Research: poverty rate doubles as coronavirus grips Kenya

When Kenya recorded its first case of coronavirus on 12 March, the government wasted no time in acting: within 72 hours strict lockdown measures were in effect, and inter-county travel bans, the closure of open-air markets and a countrywide 9pm to 4am curfew soon followed.

Now, original new research from Hand in Hand is providing perhaps the most detailed look yet at how the smallholder farmers and microenterprise owners that power Kenya’s informal economy, in particular women, are struggling to cope.

The findings, which come as the government of Kenya yesterday extended its curfew by 30 days even while loosening some travel restrictions, paint a bleak picture of shuttered businesses, dwindling savings, and a country with a long road to recovery.

But they also sketch a roadmap to recovery, capturing the areas where our members – and the 11.8 million Kenyans who work in the country’s informal economy – most need support.

The results

In late-May, Hand in Hand staff surveyed 579 Self-Help Group members and 197 borrowers from our Enterprise Incubation Fund, almost 80 percent of them women, to find out they’d been affected by the lockdown. Respondents were randomly selected from 21 branches spread out across the central and southern portions of the country.

How were their businesses coping? Their savings and debt levels? What steps were they taking to adapt? What assistance did they need, financial and otherwise?

Here’s what they said.

 

83% living in poverty

Poverty

Before coronavirus forced Kenya into lockdown, 44 percent of sampled members lived below the poverty line of US $1.90 per person per day (Countrywide, the poverty rate is 36 percent.) Eight weeks into lockdown, that number had almost doubled, reaching 83 percent. 

 

25% of businesses closed

Business closures

A full quarter of respondents’ had been forced to close their businesses. In some areas, that figure was as high as 40 percent. Transport and manufacturing were the hardest-hit sectors, with just 55 percent and 67 percent of Kenyan microenterprise owners still managing respectively. Agriculture, where 78 percent respondents of still had work, and retail, where 75 percent did, were faring best.

 

67% drop in income

Business income

Even when businesses managed to stay open, the picture was bleak: regardless of sector, location or gender, the average drop in business income was 67 percent. Not surprisingly, then, respondents identified low business incomes, a lack of customers due to market closures, and low demand as their most pressing challenges. Rising prices for farm inputs and a lack of affordable transport were other common themes.

 

69% drop in savings

Savings

Before the lockdown, 5 percent of respondents had no savings. Eight weeks later, that figure had shot to 39 percent. Just over half of all respondents, 54 percent, said they’d spent at least some of their savings on household needs including food. An almost equal number, 52 percent, had put at least some towards keeping their businesses running. Five percent were using their savings to pay off loans.

For almost all of them, time was running out. Five weeks ago when the survey was conducted, only 14 percent had a rainy day fund that would last more than a month.

 

54% plan to take out a loan to restart their business

Financing

Forty-two percent of members had no outstanding loans. Among the 58 percent who did, Self-Help Group savings funds and Hand in Hand’s Enterprise Incubation Fund were the two most common sources of credit. Both groups said financing to restart their businesses was their most important requirement, citing an average loan size of KES 27,200 (US $260). Zero-collateral loans, grants and even food donations were requested with no prompting.

Other ways we can help

Financing was our members’ number one requirement – but it wasn’t their only one. Eighty-four percent said they need personal protective equipment including face masks, gloves and soap to reopen. Farm inputs such as new seeds, training to help businesses survive during lockdown, and help accessing markets were also requested.

And then there were members who needed no help at all. Nine percent of respondents said they’d made strategic adaptations to their businesses, ranging from sourcing inputs locally to circumvent transport restrictions to more directly marketing their products door-to-door. In one case, a woman in Nairobi said she was working to make her handmade goods available on an e-commerce platform.

To learn more about this report and how Hand in Hand is adapting our programmes to help our members recover, please contact Hand in Hand International Head of Programmes Amalia Johnsson.

Hand in Hand reaches thousands in Kenya with coronavirus advice

Last month, as lockdown measures, curfews and strict social distancing laws brought Kenya to a halt, Hand in Hand traded Self-Help Groups for SMS’, motorbikes for mobile phones, setting out to reach more than 85,000 members with handwashing guidelines and other health messages, signpost to vital health services, and counter fake news.

At the same time, we were determined to empower our members to lead the fight against the coronavirus in their communities, providing advice on how to produce soap and masks, boosting food security by pointing rural members to alternative sources of seedlings and crops, and making sure far-flung communities get their messages to distant government officials.

One month later, as outreach ramps up across 21 counties, we’re able to report our progress for the very first time. From 13 April to 10 May, the latest period for which data are available, our trainers reached:

45,417 members with handwashing guidelines and other health messages

14,666 members providing links to new sources of seedlings and crops

11,104 members with advice on adapting businesses, selling face masks and soap

 

Face masks made and sold by the Uwezo Wema Self-Help Group.

Uwezo Wema, a Self-Help Group based in Babadogo, Nairobi County was one of the first to be contacted by trainers.

“The usual products we used to sell the pre-Corona period – shopping bags, playing balls and sandals – are no longer in high demand,” says Rhoda, the group’s Chair. “In order to survive we were forced to be creative and come up with a different business idea. Now we’re selling masks and sanitiser, which Hand in Hand taught us how to make. Our income is down from what is used to be, but we are thankful that at least we can make something during such a difficult time.”

Why women and girls are vulnerable to coronavirus

Although the risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19 is greater among men and the elderly, women in the developing world face unique challenges that shouldn’t be ignored. In this article, Hand in Hand Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell explains how women are being affected – and what Hand in Hand is doing to help them.

 

 

Livelihoods

Women are traditional caregivers: when a family member gets sick, it’s their job to step in. First and foremost, this puts them at greater risk of infection. But even in cases when they don’t fall ill, the burden of household work can increase exponentially, particularly at a time when children are home from school. Parents all over the world have been struggling with a version of this, and in many cases feeling completely overwhelmed. Now imagine if you also had to walk miles every day to fetch water, plus do the chores and shopping yourself, all while tending to the smallholding that’s keeping your family from starving and, in many cases, trying to run a small business on the side. Something’s got to give, and when a family member or members fall ill that thing is almost always the business – and in many cases the farm.

 

 

Hunger

Women working as unpaid nurses don’t have time to be unpaid farmers. In households where men don’t share the burden (most of them, in rural settings) and virtually 100 percent of female-headed households, health crises can turn to hunger crises, quick.

Across our operating countries – right now – there are women who don’t have the time to grow food because of coronavirus and don’t have the savings to buy it. Those who do have savings will be running out soon. At the same time, women are more likely than men to work in the informal economy, meaning they lack social protections like insurance or sick paid leave. Their capacity to absorb shocks, in other words, can be effectively non-existent.

Finally, and maybe most starkly, when economic pressures and food shortages visit rural households, tradition often dictates that women and girls eat least and last.

 

 

Gender-based violence

Increases in gender-based violence during lockdown have rightly caught our attention here in the developed world. The developing world, where rates of violence against women are significantly higher, deserves our attention too.

Let’s not forget that things could get worse, not better, as the lockdown lifts and the true extent of our economic crisis begins to dawn. If isolation is one cause of gender-based violence, stress and financial difficulties are two more. At a time when every spare penny will have gone to buying food, escaping violent relationships will be more difficult than ever.

 

 

Health

Health services can be universally lacking in the countries where we work. But even when they’re available women face unique challenges in accessing them. In some communities, restrictive norms keep women from travelling alone. In others’, doctors won’t see them unless their husband – who could well be ill with Covid-19 – is present at the appointment.

How Hand in Hand is helping

Long-term plans to help women weather the coming economic storm are being developed by our programmes teams now.

In the more immediate term, we’ve already taken measures to protect our women members. These include:

  • Reaching women that official health guidance hasn’t, typically via their Self-Help Group leaders, to spread information about social distancing, handwashing and other virus prevention measures.
  • Providing opportunities to talk about domestic abuse. Although they’re stuck in their homes, some women find that simply having a space to talk about their situation can benefit their mental health. When the lockdown is over, we can more actively direct them to support services.
  • Providing information about keeping their businesses running, from how to produce items such as soap and masks to boosting food security by pointing rural members to alternative sources of seedlings and crops.
  • Working with men, who make up roughly 20 percent of our members, to share information about the benefits of sharing household tasks.
  • Reaching men with targeted messages about coping mechanisms, and providing someone to talk to, in order to reduce the incidence of domestic abuse.

95% of Hand in Hand members report improved quality of life

From designing new projects to evaluating old ones, Hand in Hand puts our members at the centre of everything we do. So last year, we asked 60 Decibels – experts in measuring impact through “customer feedback lens” – to find out what our members in Kenya are saying about our work.

For two weeks in November, the team at 60 Decibels interviewed more than 170 members who’d completed our training, all within the last two years.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • Hand in Hand’s training is useful. 95 percent of respondents were still using it in their business.
  • Hand in Hand’s training improves people’s lives. 95 percent saw improvements in their quality of life after completing our training. Bigger incomes were the main reason why.
  • Hand in Hand goes where other NGOs don’t. 92 percent of respondents said there was no alternative to Hand in Hand where they lived.
  • Given a choice, they prefer Hand in Hand. Among respondents who had an alternative, 85 percent said Hand in Hand was better.
  • They could use more credit. Asked for suggested improvement, 34 percent of respondents suggested increased financing, the most common of any response.

Conducted before the threat of coronavirus was known, the survey will nevertheless help us tailor our post-Covid-19 response, providing insight into what’s working for our members and where we can be of more help. More on that in weeks in and months to come.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan steps up fight against Covid-19

Hand in Hand is delivering soap, chlorine solution and crucial virus prevention training to 26,000 Afghans as the country braces for a Covid-19 crisis that could become “another Wuhan” without immediate action.

Launched on Sunday 5 April, the emergency response came just days after Afghan officials appealed to NGOs for help, targeting 4,000 hard-to-reach households in Herat, Balkh and Parwan Provinces.

“We consider it our duty to inform people about methods of prevention,” says Zahra, a Hand in Hand trainer on the frontlines of our response. “We can save lives.”

An uncertain world

In a world where so much is uncertain, Afghans have reason to be especially concerned. Every day, thousands of returnees pour across the border from Iran, one of the early epicentres of the virus, fleeing both the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19 and the virus itself. It’s impossible to know how many are bringing it with them, but public health officials here are worried.

“We fear that Herat will turn into another Wuhan,” Afghanistan’s national health minister, Ferozuddin Feroz, told reporters in late-March. Add to that the country’s depleted health system, which struggles to keep up even at the best of times, and prevention is the only hope.

For as long as that hope remains, Hand in Hand will do everything in our power to protect our members and their neighbours. That’s why we’re urgently appealing for your help to nearly triple our impact, reaching 70,000 more Afghans – most of them living in camps for the internally displaced – with soap, chlorine solution and virus prevention training. With your help we can save lives. But we have to act now.

Hope remains

A day’s travel away in Balkh Province, Hand in Hand member Sharifa has worries of her own. The 24-year-old was among the first to receive virus prevention training from Hand in Hand in the earliest days of the outbreak, before the government’s response kicked in. In an area without adequate health services, she says, that training could be her community’s only defence.

“There is a health centre in our village that cannot do anything about Coronavirus and a hospital in the district with very few facilities, no capacity and no equipment for testing,” says the mother of four young children.

For precisely that reason, she says, Hand in Hand’s training on how to keep safe “has brought me peace of mind. Thank you to the supporters of Hand in Hand. Please know you are giving us hope.”

Afghanistan recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 24 February. Within weeks, Hand in Hand trainers were instructing members – many living in remote areas that public health messages don’t always reach – on virus prevention measures including handwashing, social distancing and more.

Help us save lives. Donate today

With your help, we’ll…

Reach almost 100,000 Afghans

Provide 14,000 households with 6 bars of soap, a bottle of chlorine solution and one spray-pump each

Train every household in handwashing, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and more

Hand in Hand fights spread of Covid-19 in Afghanistan

Hand in Hand Afghanistan is joining the fight against Covid-19, sharing virus prevention guidelines with families in some of the hardest-to-reach areas in the country.

Lessons in handwashing, social distancing and more have appeared alongside our usual business and skills training since the start of last week, when the country reported its earliest cases.

Other measures taken so far include:

  • Limiting training sessions to three to five members as opposed to the usual 20 to 30.
  • Wherever possible, conducting training in members’ homes.
  • In some projects, distributing livestock and chickens slightly ahead of schedule. In the event of a lockdown, chicken eggs in particular will be a vital source of nutrition. Besides, we don’t want members’ training to go to waste.
  • Prioritising training modules that will do the most good during a crisis (for now, marketing takes a backseat to poultry farming, for example).

Forty cases of Covid-19 and one death have been reported in Afghanistan as of 23 March. Home to one of our biggest projects in the country, Herat Province is the epicentre of the outbreak, with most cases arriving from neighbouring Iran where thousands of Afghans are employed. Cases are expected to jump as more people return from Iran every day.

Visit our Covid updates page for the latest information on our programmes in Afghanistan and beyond.

A message from Hand in Hand International Chair Bruce Grant

In times of crisis, the vulnerable suffer most.

For now, it is the physically vulnerable who need our care and attention. But let’s not forget that one day in the not-too-distant future, it will be the economically vulnerable whose voices cry out loudest. Just as fighting the spread of Covid-19 requires every one of us to do our part today, so too will helping the world’s poorest people bounce back from the collapse of global markets require total, concerted resolve tomorrow.

As Chair of Hand in Hand International, let me be unequivocal: our global network will be ready to lead the fight. Even as programmes in some parts of the network have been forced to press pause, others are being modified to spread crucial virus prevention guidelines to some of the hardest-to-reach corners of the world. Behind the scenes, work on digitising our fieldwork and building new programmes that raise incomes even higher continues apace.

As Executive Chairman of the Applied Value Group and someone with decades of business experience, I would add that, even now, the philanthropic community must remember our incredible privilege and duty to pay it forward. Now is an exceptionally difficult time for everyone, but it’s also a time to reflect on the things that truly matter to us: family, friends and helping the most vulnerable. Let’s use this opportunity to make the world a better place – something Applied Value is doing by committing to increase our CSR pledges this year despite a forecasted drop in profitability.

To Hand in Hand’s donors and partners, we say thank you for continued support. Our team will have already reached out to you individually, and you’ll be hearing much more from us in the coming days and weeks. To our field staff in Afghanistan, East Africa and India we say thank you for working so hard through such incredible adversity. And to our members in every corner of our network, we say this: no matter where you are, no matter what it takes, we promise to help get you back on your feet – and after that, up the ladder.

Yesterday, as coronavirus deaths in my home country the United States surpassed 100, lawmakers announced $1 trillion in spending to help see Americans through. Imagine a world where we could find instant bilateral support for spending the same on micro-entrepreneurship, drilling for clean water and fighting malaria in the developing world.

Wishing you and yours health, safety and calm,

Bruce Grant
Chair, Hand in Hand International
Executive Chairman, Applied Value Group

Covid-19 updates

This page is no longer being updated. For the latest on Hand in Hand’s coronavirus response, click here.

Covid-19 has arrived in Hand in Hand’s countries of operation. Here, we provide updates on how we’re responding.

For information about how you can reduce your risk of infection, visit the World Health Organization website.

And to read a message from Hand in Hand International Chair Bruce Grant, click here.

Key updates

  • Teams in Afghanistan join fight against virus

  • Teams in Kenya join emergency response

  • Staff in Tanzania relay health information to members via mobile phone

Afghanistan

Hand in Hand is delivering soap, chlorine solution and crucial virus prevention training to 26,000 Afghans as part of the country’s official response to Covid-19 – with plans to reach 70,000 more.

The new project comes after a government lockdown in late-March banned gatherings of all kinds. In response, our usual business and skills training was suspended until 30 April – a date we’re keeping under constant review.

Afghanistan recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 24 February. Within weeks, Hand in Hand trainers were instructing members – many living in remote areas that public health messages don’t always reach – on virus prevention measures including handwashing, social distancing and more. Business and skills training continued during this time, with group meetings replaced by smaller home visits wherever possible. (For more on our initial response to Covid-19, click here.)

There are 1,092 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 36 deaths in Afghanistan according to WHO figures, though the true number is expected to be many times higher. It’s also expected to keep rising as thousands of displaced Afghans cross the border every day from Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Kenya

In co-ordination with county governments, Hand in Hand is connecting with 86,000 members countrywide, providing support in two key areas: slowing/halting the spread of Covid-19 and ensuring food security for our members and their families.

With the country on lockdown, teams are trading Self-Help Groups for SMS’, motorbikes for mobile phones, reaching out to thousands of members individually to deliver key health messages (e.g. handwashing guidelines), signpost to vital health services, and counter fake news. At the same time, with food security a growing concern country- and indeed region-wide, they’re pointing agribusiness members towards alternative supply sources, signposting to Covid-19 relief opportunities such as soap-making and mask-making, and feeding back to government teams to identify communities in particular need. All this while restructuring repayment plans for members who’ve taken loans.

Behind the scenes, we’re ramping up efforts across several key projects, with work ongoing to: fully digitise our data from collection to analysis, allowing trainers to learn and adapt in real-time; develop the next generation Hand in Hand programmes, targeting alumni from previous projects for a second phase of higher income growth; and instruct staff on Hand in Hand Eastern Africa’s new training manuals, deepening our emphasis on women’s entrepreneurship.

Kenya recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 13 March. Two days later, local officials requested a pause on Hand in Hand group meetings as strict social distancing measures came into effect countrywide. Accordingly, and to play our part in halting the spread of the virus, Hand in Hand Eastern Africa temporarily suspended field activities until 1 July – a date we’re keeping under constant review.

There are 296 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 14 deaths in Kenya, according to WHO figures.

Tanzania

Like in Kenya, staff in Tanzania are relaying virus prevention guidelines to rural, hard-to-reach members via mobile phone.

The country recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 16 March. Two days later, officials closed schools and suspended social gatherings. Accordingly, and to play our part in halting the spread of the virus, Hand in Hand’s team in Tanzania temporarily suspended field until 1 July – a date we’re keeping under constant review.

There are 255 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 10 deaths in Tanzania, according to WHO figures.

Hand in Hand doubles work with returnees in Afghanistan

Two provinces, 2,250 members, 56,250 chickens and more than 8 million eggs a year. Hand in Hand’s work with returnees and displaced people in Afghanistan is growing exponentially thanks to a third round of funding from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German government’s development agency.

Launching this month in Herat and Bamyan provinces, the 18-month project will train 2,145 returnees and 105 internally displaced people (IDPs) – many fleeing Taliban violence, droughts and famine  – to work their way towards a prosperous future in Afghanistan’s growing poultry value chain. Ninety percent of all members will be women – by far the most ambitious female participation rate in Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s history – and 60 percent will be youth (aged 18 to 35).

The project follows two others funded by GIZ, both targeting displaced Afghans, the last of which concluded in December 2018.

From refugees to returnees

More than 700,000 Afghan refugees returned to the country from Iran and Pakistan in 2018 – the equivalent, in this relatively small country, of almost the entire population of New York City arriving in the US. But even they are only a fraction of the nearly 4.5 million returnees and IDPs forced to relocate in Afghanistan in recent years, commensurate with the population of California.

Few will have been back to Afghanistan since leaving, lacking family and friends to help them get back on their feet. Thousands will have never set foot in the country at all. And despite receiving small cash grants to support their resettlement, 75 percent will be destitute within three months, drained by the urgent need for food, shelter and transportation, according to the UN.

For women, especially young ones, the challenges are even greater. Restricted mobility, hostile markets and other cultural barriers make earning a living virtually impossible. In Herat Province, for example, only 13 percent of women are involved in any income-generating work.

Women’s participation

If the pilot programme proved it, last year’s full-scale project confirmed it: Afghanistan’s poultry value chain is ideal for returnees and IDPs. Skills are easily learned. Incomes, compared to other rural sectors, are high. And increases are quickly realised. The average beneficiary in last year’s project earned a monthly net income of 1,771 AFN (US $23.50) within one year, in many cases starting from zero.

For women in particular, the benefits don’t end there. Poultry farms can be run from entrepreneurs’ own households – crucial for female members with restricted mobility. At the same time, nutrition and food security improve – a matter of particular interest to those responsible for childcare. For these reasons, 2019’s poultry project targets our highest-ever female participation rate in Afghanistan: 90 percent, up from previous of targets of 70 percent. In another first, we’ll also be providing gender sensitisation training to all project members covering subjects including the need for gender awareness, gender equity in Islam, and the role of women in production.

What we’ve learned so far

With the pilot and 2018’s project behind us, this year’s project promises to be our most successful yet. Improvements based on previous lessons learnt include:

  • Improved metrics for assessing need. For the first time, we’ll prioritise widows, female-headed households and disabled people.
  • New training on traditional hatching methods and nutrition, including the proven benefits of eggs to infant and maternal health.
  • Underground cooling rooms that are easier to maintain and more accessible to women than previous cooling technology. (In the past, cultural norms have inhibited women from using machinery.)

Sustainability

Sustainability is fundamental to Hand in Hand and GIZ’s work. That’s why Hand in Hand is forming six member-led poultry associations, comprising approximately 375 members each, to help our members achieve economies of scale and access larger markets and value chains.

The project also prioritises environmental sustainability by using solar-powered coolers and promoting eco-friendly practices such as using chicken faeces as fertiliser.

By the numbers

18 months

2,250 jobs

8 million-plus eggs